Last month saw World Penguin Day on April 25th. If you think Engineering has very little to do with Penguins; you would be wrong.
Oxford Universities “Penguin Watch” is a massively popular ‘citizen science’ platform.
Now in its third year, Penguin Watch has harnessed technology and people power to help protect this universally loved seabird.
Penguinolists (Penguinology is a term coined by Oxfords Tom Hart to describe penguin research studies) at Oxford worked with Engineering Professor Andrew Zisserman and Carlos Arteta to automate a series of time-lapse cameras across the Southern Hemisphere to capture data on penguin behaviours.
The data these cameras produced was huge and it quickly became apparent to a Tom Hart and his team that analysing would be a huge undertaking. With over 100 cameras taking a photo every hour throughout a whole year (~8,000 photos per camera per year) it is easy to understand how the dataset would be unmanageable to the small team of Penguinolists.
Professor Zisserman suggested that Penguin Watch should be a ‘Citizen Science’ project and so “Penguin Watch” was born. Images from the cameras were hosted online, and the team invited members of the public (of all ages) to log on and count the penguins.
The platform has a really nice, dual benefit. From our point of view, we get our penguin data processed, and the general public also get to be a part of the research process. People enjoy being useful – and they are.
The images gathered so far have helped Penguinolists discover more about the winter activity of penguins, and how they behave in their daily lives, and breeding habits.